Why Take 1 launched a mental health initiative in the midst of a pandemic

19th March 2020

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Across the world the COVID-19 outbreak is forcing businesses to close and entire communities to retreat from society.  Where terms like social distancing and self-isolation may once have been indicators of poor mental health, they’re now our best chance of avoiding what is being described by the World Health Organisation as “the defining global health crisis of our time.”  But, while the cost of this pandemic is being measured in lives lost and economic impact, the effect on our mental health takes an invisible toll. 

According to the NHS, the things that are most likely to have an impact on our mental wellbeing are;

  • Personal life and relationships
  • Money, work or housing
  • Life changes
  • Health issues
  • Traumatic life events
  • Smoking, alcohol, gambling and drug misuse

The spread of the coronavirus potentially affects all of these things – even if you aren’t infected.  Self-isolation and social distancing make it difficult to maintain relationships with friends and family, closing businesses and staff layoffs will have a massive financial impact on families and many lives will be changed irrevocably before a vaccine is rolled out.  Add to this anxiety around actually contracting the virus and the fact that many of us will lose loved ones to the disease and it stands to reason that we’ll see an increase in substance abuse as people struggle to cope.

Alicia became a qualified mental health First Aider earlier this year

Despite all of this, the COVID-19 outbreak is not what prompted Take 1 to launch a mental health initiative for our staff.  The truth is that our office manager, Alicia Baldwin, proposed the initiative after passing a “Mental Health First Aider” course earlier in the year and it’s something we had planned to implement before most of us had ever heard of Wuhan.  It’s fortuitous that the scheme was implemented just as the virus started to spread beyond China, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Take 1’s mental health initiative includes an Employee Assistance Programme provided by AXA Healthcare which provides 24hr access to a confidential helpline as well as online and face-to-face counselling and  the voluntary introduction of a wellbeing section in staff appraisals, supported by a wellbeing action plan provided by MIND. 

The company also distributes a monthly mental health newsletter with information and articles surrounding mental health in our industry and ideas for improving employee wellbeing.  This month’s issue provided employees with practical tips to staying positive during the pandemic  -you’d be surprised how the simple act of decluttering your home can help clear your mind and reduce stress and how important a good night’s sleep is to your mental health!

Like many businesses, Take 1 is currently encouraging staff to work from home as much as possible.  Because our business model is based on a largely dispersed workpool that is accustomed to (and equipped for) remote working, the current circumstances shouldn’t impact on our ability to maintain “business as normal” services.  With the mental health initiative in place we’re confident that our staff also have the personal support they need to weather this storm.